The Wii U and the PlayStation Vita are in their twilight years. Sitting on their proverbial porches, rocking back and forth, and watching the sun slowly set. In the case of the Wii U, any and all existing development has shifted over to the Nintendo Switch, leaving the Wii U with one of the smallest libraries of any modern console. For the PlayStation Vita, while not all development has stopped, it has certainly dropped to a level that only a select few indie and Japanese developers are still creating games for the console.
Typically, when a console’s life is at its end, it enters into a liquidation state. Companies are trying to offload all their extra supply and consumers are also trying to offload their old games in hopes of using that money to purchase the next consoles coming out. With all this extra surplus, there is no better time as a collector or someone who wishes to play the last generation games to get a lot of value at very little cost. Unfortunately, in the case of the PlayStation Vita and Wii U, this hasn’t happened, making what would typically be the best time to purchase games for these consoles, the worst.
Of course, this isn’t without reason.
5Low Adoption Rate
Both the Wii U and the PlayStation Vita suffered from a very low adoption rate due to very different reasons. The Wii U suffered greatly by being simply named, the Wii U. Many consumers were generally confused on what the product was. Was it an add-on for the Wii, was it its own console, something in between? Most consumers couldn’t tell the difference and thus the need and want to purchase it was diminished. In addition, the Wii U was also unsure of itself in regards who its target audience was. The Wii was clearly focused on a more casual market, but the Wii U? Well, that audience was a little bit muddled.
This compilation of commercials is a perfect example of the many mixed messages that the Wii U employed during its life. Is it for casual players, seasoned gamers, or something else? Does it separate the Wii or the Wii U, describe the product, or its benefits to the consumer? No, and thus the Wii U struggled.
The PlayStation Vita, on the other hand, suffered from targeting a market that truly only existed in the East at the time. Much of the PlayStation’s Vita’s goals and appeal, was to play console games in the palm of your hand. Unfortunately, while some of the games would live up to this promise, what would largely be the case was that they would be lesser versions of the consoles they originated on. Some would be missing functions, others would simply run worse, but most importantly, if you already have the main console, than why would you pick the version that is worse? This coupled with high memory card prices and minimal marketing, left the Vita struggling to gain a large following,
4Niche and Limited Libraries
If your console has limited appeal when it initially launches, it is forever at a disadvantage of garnering interest from publishers and developers. This results in a snowball effect, not enough developers are creating games for a poorly launched console, so developers tend to ignore the console for new releases, resulting in fewer console sales. It is a vicious cycle, but unfortunately, it happens.
For the Wii U, then third party developers abandoned the console, leaving Nintendo as the only one willing to keep it alive. Games were scarce, but that doesn’t mean their quality was lacking, just that they were few and far between. Those who owned a Wii U were left wanting for new titles, so when a new one came out, it was a momentous occasion. Players were more willing to try and purchase games they normally wouldn’t, simply because there was nothing else to play on the console. This allowed titles like Splatoon and Bayonetta 2 to develop such strong cult followings that eventually propelled them onto the Switch with such strong responses.
Again, the Vita found itself in an opposite situation. Sony, outside of its initial release, all but abandoned the Vita when it came to developing new games for the system. After Killzone Mercenary, Uncharted: Golden Abyss, and Gravity Rush, first-party development completely dried up. The Vita luckily found support through much smaller developers and publishers (largely Japanese), developing a unique niche that didn’t exist on other consoles. It found itself the home of visual novels, indie titles, and a whole host of RPGs that were both unique and largely not offered from elsewhere. Creating a unique set of titles that would find much love in its passionate fanbase.
For both the Wii U and the Vita, this would mean that games would receive small print runs. If the base of gamers simply isn’t that large, publishers are not going to create a large run of the latest game for it to only sit on store shelves. This created an inherent scarcity when it came to titles and their production. If there are not a large number of titles created, then there isn’t a number of titles that need to be offloaded should they not sell. However, with both consoles garnering a respectable cult following, this meant that those games wouldn’t last long on shelves, or if they did, there was no need to treat them as if at any point they wouldn’t be there.
In the case of the Vita, the scarcity and interest were at such a unique point, that one of the major trends of games releasing on the console was to literally have limited runs of titles. This could be either through services such as Limited Run Games, who would create a predetermined amount of physical releases of a title, all the way to companies like NIS America that would largely maintain the number of physical releases they would make but only fielding orders for them from their physical store, and once they were sold out, they were out.
All of the previous points to lead to one thing, cost. With limited runs of games, limited interest in the consoles themselves, and both have a niche or limited library, it all leads to one thing; cost. Since there are such a small amount of games made for each console, it means that the people who wanted them originally, have them, except for the inherently rare titles. Couple this, with a limited interest in the console themselves, and it means that the most common games have been common and cheap for some time, and the games with limited runs have already sold everything they are going to make are expensive. The small group of those who wish to collect those games will need to fight over those physical copies, further driving prices up.
In regards to the Vita, titles that released as exclusives to stores such as Gamestop or NISAmerica go for well over their original asking prices when found outside of their original storefronts. Those that were part of companies such as Limited Run Games, easily go over their original asking price and continue to rise in price due to the inherent scarcity of the product. Collectors realize that the console is at its end and that these games will most likely hold value as they become harder and harder to find. Since the base of those that own the titles is so small, we would be lucky to have a windfall of Vita games at some point. Not to mention, most won’t want to offload their titles as they are in it to keep them, not trade them or sell them for the next console. Making all of these titles that had built in scarcity increasingly more expensive and difficult to collect for.
The Wii U simply suffers Nintendo tax. That is, Nintendo will rarely if ever, lower the prices of its games; even if they are old. This is because Nintendo places its value on its franchises, not so much of the individual game itself. Its more important that everyone thinks Mario or Zelda is valuable, regardless of the entry. By dropping the price, even on older titles, signals that the older titles hold less value than the newer ones, which goes against Nintendo’s philosophy on how to maintain the value of its franchises. Instead of scarcity becoming the main contributor to the Vita, in this case, it’s simply that Nintendo refuses to drop prices at any meaningful speed. Titles like Splatoon or Xenoblade Chronicles X still easily sit at above $30, and regularly, sit at $40 or more. Even though these titles are several years old on a dead console.
While collecting for these consoles already seem bad enough, there is one final content that makes it all the more complicated, ports. While on the surface this may seem like a good thing for someone who is collecting an old console, it does create an additional question. Is the port, that will most likely be the definitive version of the game, the preferred option? Both titles found on the Wii U and on the Vita are moving to consoles like the Nintendo Switch in droves. It would be one thing if they were simply ports, but many of the titles working their way over are all enhanced in some manner, making them definitive editions of that title. Take the port of Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze coming to the Nintendo Switch, it adds a whole new game mode featuring Funky Kong. In the case of Mario Karty 8 Deluxe, all of the DLC that was added post-release was included in the enhanced port when brought to the Nintendo Switch.
This creates an interesting situation for a collector if the game on the original console (Wii U or Vita in this case) is already expensive, but then an enhanced port of that title is releasing on a different console but at a price not too far off of the original, which do you choose? In my case, I choose the later, if you are already going to spend all that money, why not get the version that includes the most features and functions?
So while the Wii U and Vita are in the time frame that is usually prime for collectors and collecting, instead, it is actually the worst. We don’t know when or if games will be receiving ports, and if those ports will actually be better. When it comes to buying the originals, there are several factors working actively against dropping prices and making the collecting for these consoles not feasible in terms of cost. Instead of collecting for these titles right now, the best course of action is to simply wait and see, and hopefully, the future will have more fortuitous prospects.